Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is an enormous problem in Low Middle Income Countries and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. There are an estimated 500,000 children born in Africa with CHD each year with a major proportion of this in sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of these children receive sub-optimal or no care at all.
The Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that 80% of deaths from non-communicable diseases, including CHD, now occur in LMICs (Low-to-Middle-Income Countries). Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1% of live births have CHD accounting for 1.5 million per year.
There have been estimates by the WHO to suggest that 90% of these children have suboptimal or no access to care at all with most of these children concentrated in LMICs, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.
Factors that impact healthcare delivery include affordability, access, and awareness. All three of these elements must exist for successful healthcare delivery. In CHD, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, each of these three factors contributes to numerous children being unable to obtain appropriate care.
Without governmental (or humanitarian) support, the treatment of CHD is unaffordable for the vast majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. The costs are prohibitive even though the treatment can sometimes be curative or often have a strikingly positive impact on the individual’s clinical status. The current setup, particularly in East Africa, is self-funding for the vast majority of patients with CHD.
Those who cannot afford the treatment will either accept their fate or attempt to raise some money, often with the help of their families or local village communities. However, the money raised frequently falls short or is too late. In the rare instance where they are able to pay for treatment, the financial impact to the family and their village is considerable, not only in their existing state of affairs, but also for their future planning.
Public hospitals (where the care is free or for a nominal cost) attempt to bridge the cost of the care, but are congested and overwhelmed.
Children with congenital heart disease are born with defects in the structure of their hearts. The defects happen very early in pregnancy, when the heart is being formed.
There are many different types of heart defects. The most common type is a hole in the heart. The hole might be between the top chambers of the heart, or between the bottom chambers.
Some defects affect the heart valves. For example, the valves might be narrower than normal or cause blood to leak. Less often, children might have blood vessels that are too narrow. Or entire parts of their hearts might not have formed properly.
Children who have severe congenital heart disease might have more than one defect in their hearts.
There are many different types of congenital heart defects, falling mainly into these categories:
A condition called coarctation of the aorta happens when the main blood vessel supplying blood to the body is too narrow. Total anomalous pulmonary venous connection is a defect that occurs when blood vessels from the lungs attach to wrong area of the heart.
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